THE EVIL YOU KNOW
by Shawn Emily and Rebecca Ross
M. A. Carson and Anna Mary Hall
Though she'd learned long ago to school her features so they revealed nothing of what she was feeling; Lorna could not ignore the lump in her throat as she paused on the staircase and listened to the silence of the great house. She'd accepted the fact that the day would come when the twins would be leaving her to set forth on lives of their own. Now that the time had come, it was still hard.
She couldn't deny them their opportunity to take full advantage of their dual heritage. When Douglas McCollum had confirmed their hopes that Suvil did indeed possess great talent and ability as both a scientist and as an artist, they'd realized that he would need training and guidance beyond that offered by the usual schoolroom situation; guidance that, because of the pressure of their duties as Ambassadors, Sarek and Lorna could not adequately provide. The Federation needed them more than the children did. There were facilities and personnel available to care for the children as expertly and as tenderly--but there were, as yet, no adequate replacements for the Ambassadorial team. When Talitha's mathematical brilliance, as well as her musical ability, had been retested--confirming the primary results, McCollum had presented an attractive proposal: Talitha, with her predominantly human characteristics, needed the freely expressed warmth and the love that both Sarek and Lorna gave unreservedly--and human friends could give unhesitatingly. Suvil, being Vulcan by temperament and appearance, needed the guidance and control of Vulcans. . .yet would not develop at an efficient rate if he were parted from his sibling. McCollum, as a human wed to a Vulcan, could fulfill both requirements.
Lorna had been able to keep the children with her and still help Sarek with his Ambassadorial duties, for a tutor had been included among their staff. Now that the twins had been well established in school, she'd had to face the choice of remaining behind on Vulcan, contenting herself with the few moments that the children might be able to spend with her at the close of each busy day. . .or else of resuming her place at her husband's side, secure in the knowledge that the Vulcan filial bond would enable her to be with her children in spirit. It was a far cry from the Kirche, Kinder, Käche outlook of her childhood training--difficult for her to accept, but one that had worked amazingly well for the Vulcans.
Perhaps she should have felt guilty over leaving the children--certainly she felt sorrow; all her maternal instincts protested and urged her to stay. The hard, cold fact was that the twins no longer needed her constant, physical presence, especially since the McCollums would be caring for them. Vulcan children matured earlier than human children did, and the first five years comprised the truly crucial time period in a Vulcan child's life. This was when all the bases were formed--when the parents molded and shaped the inner core; and it was the only time a Vulcan child was totally dependent upon his parents. Without those parents--or a reasonable facsimile thereof--the child would not survive.
But Suvil and Talitha were past that crucial stage. They still needed Lorna's mothering spirit, but not her actual physical presence. And, if she were needed, she would know it and immediately return.
Lorna smiled as a mental picture flashed across her consciousness--of children during her former time, in boarding schools, marching along to classes in neat, little uniforms and pinafores. . .perfect angels until the teacher's back was turned, then all Hell would break loose!
Too many parents had boarded their children out only so they would be free to follow their own pursuits without the responsibility for the children.
Then there was the opposite extreme, where the mother was literally tied to her children until they grew up.
One fact was absolute--a child must have a certain amount of independence from his parents before he can begin to mature. Lorna's children just happened to be ready for that step before she was. (Was any mother really ready?)
The most important thing was--they were secure in the certainty of Lorna's love. They would never doubt and could move ahead in their growing, unfettered.
Besides, Sarek was her life--and she could not abandon him. She had a responsibility to the children, true, but she had a greater, prior responsibility to Sarek. With the children provided for in all respects, she was ready to resume her responsibility to Sarek and to his work.
She smiled again, sadly this time. It didn't stop the hurt--only time could do that. Maybe, she thought, my children growing up makes me feel old. Nothing can be more natural than that. If so, I know one sure cure. Work!
Still, if she hadn't been told of the well kept secret of her husband's hidden life, Lorna might have made the decision to remain on Vulcan, for early training and habits are extremely hard to break.
She smiled a third time, recalling her astonishment when Sarek and Kang had informed her that they were both agents of the Superiors that Gary Seven had worked for on Old Earth. (("Grain of Sense", SHOWCASE III, December 1976.)) So many things that she hadn't been able to understand had fallen into place the moment Sarek had told her of his secret work.
The sound of a footstep in the hallway below roused her from her reflections, and she looked down to meet her husband's intent gaze.
"Lorna?" he said quietly, but there was an underlying tone that indicated his concern for her as he held out his hand.
"I'm all right, Sarek," she assured him as she moved swiftly to join him and entwined her fingers about his. "I was just. . .remembering."
"Yes," he agreed. "It is good to look back, to pause and reflect, but one must not stand too long looking back over a shoulder when new challenges lie ahead."
"I know. . .but it isn't easy--no more for you, than it is for me, my love," she sighed. "My mother would never have been able to understand how I can go with you and miss so many of the experiences that will fit the children's lives during the early part of their formal schooling."
"In her time, there was little choice," he replied as his fingers tightened about hers. "In our time, through our Bonding, which created their lives, you can know without being there to see."
"For which I am truly thankful, Sarek. I don't think I would have enjoyed making a choice between them and you."
They became silent for a moment, each turning their thoughts inward to that special place reserved for their children. . . that spot in their minds where they could "listen" in to the musical hum and subdued clatter of their children's subliminal reactions to their environment and emotions, taking advantage of the rapport while it lasted. Each knew that, with the onset of puberty, the total subliminal linkage would ebb. After that, it would be regained only in moments of great peril, such as the time Spock had felt the deaths of the Vulcans aboard the Intrepid. (("Immunity Syndrome", live STAR TREK episode.)) Though it caused them to feel sorrow as they looked ahead to this loss, each acknowledged the fact that such a parting was necessary. Otherwise, parents could get embarrassed, by "tuning in" at the wrong time.
"Come, Lorna," Sarek said finally. "We must complete our preparations for our journey."
"Yes, my husband," Lorna replied, smiling at him as she made the traditional response.
But a swift pang of apprehension, mingled with excited anticipation touched her as she entered the room serving as a combination library-den in the house. She'd entered into Sarek's secret life as much as possible while caring for the twins during their remaining preschool years, but she'd never really been active. Her assistance had been in the form of relaying messages between Kang and Sarek via her mental/empathic "locks" with them, for the Superiors had recognized the importance of the twins' blending into the Vulcan society. But that time was past, and it was now time for Lorna to take her place at Sarek's side.
"I still think it would be interesting to have a companion like Afhal," she murmured in an effort to still her emotions as she reexamined the files that she'd been checking earlier.
"Perhaps, but our situation does not require one," Sarek reminded her gently. "My particular area of work has never required immediate guidance from the Superiors. Diplomacy requires knowledge born of one's own training and skill. That I always have with me, and there have always been opportunities to call upon the advice and information our Beta Complex furnishes."
Lorna nodded, took one file to the disintegration chamber, then went back to make a last check of the desk and the storage cubes. All was in order, and she sighed with relief. This need for making sure that no trace of their work for the Superiors was left behind when they were to be off-planet could be a bother!
She looked down at the tape she was holding then, moved by an impulse, inserted that tape in the viewer and pressed the switch to play the section she wanted.
A photograph of a long passageway with glazed walls filled the screen. She pressed another switch, and a second photograph--of a huge system of tunnels connecting vast caverns--became visible.
"I still find it difficult to believe that the Moricz Archives resulted from the 'cover story' that Agents 201 and 347 gave Roberta Lincoln when they first hired her," (("Assignment: Earth", live STAR TREK episode.)) Lorna murmured. "Truly, a great achievement."
"They were," Sarek had moved with his usual quiet step to join her. "And are. Once our co-training is completed, I shall inquire into the possibility of taking you to see the installations before we return to Vulcan. I think Kang and Mara would also be fascinated by the Archives--but it is not possible to arrange a tour for them at this time."
"Indeed not," Lorna responded. "The Federation has finally become resigned to the idea of a Klingon diplomat, but it will be a very long time--if ever--before they'll allow Kang to see those records of Earth's past."
Her eyes glowed with pleased anticipation as she spoke, however, and Sarek took time to indulge in a little teasing: "Why are you so eager to see your Klingon friends, Lorna? You 'talked' with them yesterday."
"It's one of my human failings, Sarek," she retorted pertly. "Do you realize that I haven't seen them since Kang came here to buy that grain for one of the Klingon planets! I wish it were possible for them to see this in reality, instead of just in pictures," she complained as she turned back to the viewer.
"In good time, Lorna," Sarek chided her. "In good time."
"I know," she replied as she reached out to change the image on the viewer. "Sometimes, though, I get tired of waiting."
She became silent while she studied the new picture on the screen--a reproduction of a news sheet, dated in the year 1992 A.D., announcing the formal opening of the Moricz Archives--a microdot collection of photographs and printed reproductions of all the historical records and cultural treasures of the Earth's nations. Begun in secret, the Archives had been maintained with the silent cooperation of most of Earth's leaders, dating from the expulsion of American troops from Vietnam in the Seventies.
"Naturally, he would select those tunnels, thousands of miles in length, that lie beneath South America," she murmured, without realizing that she spoke aloud. "It required only a few modifications to insure that the Archives would be protected against all possible damage there. . .and at a minimal cost. I wonder, though, if the time will ever come when the Superiors will decide that we are ready to learn the entire truth behind the origin of those tunnels?"
Sarek realized that she was indulging in superficial speculation, and he didn't answer. It may well be that they do not know either, he said to himself.
Lorna pressed another switch, and the viewer zoomed in to focus on the faces of the organizers and directors of the newly acknowledged and formally authorized Archives. There were lines visible in their features and traces of gray in their hair, but the ruggedly-handsome man and the lovely blonde woman looking back at Lorna from the screen didn't look much older than they'd been when last she'd seen them before returning to her own time, (("While We're Apart", SHOWCASE II, February 1975.))
"Gary must have been in his very late fifties or early sixties--perhaps older--when that picture was taken," Lorna murmured. "And Roberta was in her mid-forties, I know. Neither of them looked their ages, though. Of course, cosmetic treatments and surgery were advanced enough then to make drastic changes in the physical aspects of aging. Somehow, I don't think either of them had the time or the inclination to indulge in such self-interest. Perhaps the Beta Five delayed the aging process for them as part of its health maintenance program. . . I always did suspect that Gary's lifespan was lengthened before he returned to Earth, much as mine has been."
Though she knew she was wasting time, she was unable to keep herself from reaching out to touch the switch a final time. A sudden mist blurred her vision, blotting out the reproduction of a news sheet page--reporting death and destruction descending upon an unwary city. "I know they did their utmost to keep things like that from happening. I wish I could have warned--"
Her voice broke, and Sarek laid a steadying, comforting hand on her shoulder. "Both James Kirk and Spock knew. . .but did not tell them. Neither could you, Lorna. Gary Seven would not have hesitated to tell you that you could not endanger the future by informing him of events that would take place within a relatively few years. The forces at work were so vast in their scope--if he had known, not even the powers and resources which were at his disposal at that time would have done more than delay those events."
"I know, but that knowledge still doesn't keep me from wishing. . .! Oh, Sarek! I thought for the longest time that he and Roberta helped guide Earth through the Wars and helped her to rebuild afterwards!"
Because her voice had trembled dangerously during that final phrase, Lorna forced herself to be silent and sought to regain control. After a moment, she smiled wanly. "I worked with them long enough to know something of their outlook, their attitudes. . . . I suppose that - that it would have been impossible for either of them to have put their personal safety before the importance of preserving all their equipment and records. Even - even so, I had always cherished the belief that this story of terrorists using a thermite bomb to destroy the building before Gary and Roberta got out was - was a deception--a way of concealing the fact that they'd gone on to an assignment on another world."
"It would please me if I could confirm your theory, Lorna," Sarek's fingers tightened on her shoulder as he brought her back to lean against him, for he knew that he was shattering her last hopes. "Unfortunately, the historical records I have studied do not indicate the presence of Gary and Roberta Seven on Earth--or on any other planet after that date. But. . . Lorna, they gave their lives furthering the development of Peace and understanding among the people of Earth. Surely the man and the woman that you have described to me would not have considered their sacrifice a vain one?"
"Of course not," Lorna snuggled against him and allowed her head to rest in that comfortable hollow of his shoulder. "But-- Well, I know I'm being sentimental, but it seems rather sad to me that their bodies were reduced to ashes by the heat of the flames. They deserved better than that. Perhaps it's morbid of me to dwell on the matter, but I - I've often hoped that it was all over too quickly for them to suffer. I've always wished that there could have been some way I could have found out what really happened that day."
Still trembling with suppressed fury, Roberta Seven entered the library and found Gary standing at the window, looking out over the city. As always, he sensed her presence, turned, and extended his hand. She moved to join him and looked up into his face.
"Gary?" she demanded. "Are you - are you sure. . . ?"
"Yes, Roberta." He put his arm about her waist and drew her close to his side. "We've done all we can. What happens now is up to them," he lifted his free hand to indicate the brightly lighted streets spread out below them, "not us. Hopefully, we've managed to plant enough seeds of understanding, elements of hope and determination, that the people will not allow this defeat to be final."
"Our own efforts on the sidelines should insure that," Roberta said softly as she leaned against the firm support of her husband's arm and looked out over the city. But, mentally, her gaze went out over the entire world, and beyond that to the sky where--though she'd never seen it and now probably never would--she knew that the Superior's planet lay hidden. "Somehow, it seems rather ironic that the fictional reason for this office became true. . .far beyond anything we could ever have imagined."
"Research for a new encyclopedia provided the perfect excuse for all the fact finding equipment we used--as well as for the correspondence circumstances required from time to time," Gary murmured indulgently. "I would have exhausted the Beta Five's resources manufacturing new identity cards for myself, if the Archives hadn't given me access to nearly every area of the known world these past few years."
"Oh, I'm sure she still has several tricks hidden up her sleeve!" Roberta snipped.
Gary's eyes narrowed slightly. So--the ancient enmity between the two females hadn't ended. His frown changed into a wry smile as he acknowledged the fact that this was one problem he couldn't solve--wouldn't try to solve. They were able to work together in a grudgingly peaceful coexistence, and he wasn't about to try to change the status quo.
"Give the Beta Five credit, Roberta," he scolded gently as he tightened his arm about his wife's waist. "She did give us the idea of storing facsimile records and photographs of Vietnam's treasures before that country fell. We were so preoccupied with the coming energy crisis that we'd never have thought of it until it was too late."
"Sure," Roberta said grudgingly. "But she didn't have to be so snooty about it! After all, you're the one who contacted the world's leaders in secret; convinced them that it would be a service to future generations to preserve the historical and cultural records of all countries. You were the one who convinced them to set up the Archives in those tunnels, where they'd survive anything, up to and including natural disasters--"
"A mission that backfired," Gary interrupted with a wry grin, "when they appointed us the Directors. There were times when I wondered if there would be time for us to work for the Superiors and squeeze the Archives in as well. . ."
"With your help. I couldn't have done it on my own. . . especially after Isis left us and went on to train operatives on other worlds," Gary replied. "But. . . . At times, I've wondered. . . . We demanded--I demanded a great deal of you, even. . . . Roberta, have you ever regretted the fact that we never seemed to find time for having and raising a family?"
"Have you?" she demanded, meeting his level gaze unflinchingly.
"The desire to insure immortality by siring young is a very strong one," he said formally, but his eyes betrayed his inner amusement--his awareness that he was leaving himself open for one of her rapier sharp observations. "Naturally, I've been trained to ignore such basic drives."
"Sure you have!" Roberta drawled mockingly. "You've given me ample proof of that during all our married life!"
He laughed softly, but said nothing, waiting for her to answer his question.
"Gary, there have been times when I've wondered what it would have been like. . .to have conceived a son like you, or perhaps a little girl as well, to love and to teach what being a woman can really mean. . . . But, we both have been totally dedicated to our work--to doing all we could to help and to protect Earth from the dangers facing her. We couldn't have done our best if we had had to divide our attention between our work and our children. . .and I think we suspected all along that something like this might happen--despite all our efforts to prevent it. Besides, I think we may have been just a wee bit selfish about it as well. What we've had has been something rather special. We didn't need children to strengthen and bind what we felt--still feel. At least, that is what I kept telling myself. Now, of course, it's too late. I'm too old. . .and with all this ahead of us, it's just as well that we don't have any children to worry about. Anyhow, I'm glad they've been spared this. . . " she gestured eloquently at the scene of imminent disaster below them.
"True," Gary agreed, then he turned enough that he could slip his other arm around Roberta and hold her closely to him for a moment of comforting that, in spite of her earlier denial, he could sense she needed. "Even so, had circumstances been different, I think it might have been fun to have had a son--though I'd have preferred a daughter. . .a golden-haired imp the very image of her mother--"
"'Imp,' am I?" Roberta put her hands against his chest in an unsuccessful attempt to push herself away. "Is that what you think of me after all these years? I--"
The moment of banter shattered by this sudden reminder of the reality about them, they turned to the window. A pillar of yellow smoke, tinged with red at the base, rose into the air, towering over the horizon.
"Now the looting and destruction begin," Gary's voice was so soft that his calmness was frightening.
"That was the Refinery, wasn't it?" Roberta demanded as she broke free of his restraining arm and turned toward the Beta Five.
"Yes." He turned and strode toward the now active screen. "Show the area of the explosion," he snapped, and the screen obeyed--with a scene of flames consuming the precious synthetic fuel that had been stored in the converted oil tanks.
"Too far advanced," he murmured, narrowing his eyes and glaring at the figures that were slipping furtively from the storage blocks to the trucks waiting there, pushing barrels of genuine oil on manual dollies before them. "No way we can stop the flames. . .the Fire Service will have to do that. There's too many of them for me to stop on my own. . .though I'll have to try. Maybe I can delay them. . . ."
"Gary!" Roberta started to protest instinctively--knowing that he would be going to his death. Then she bit her lip and forced herself to stop speaking. This was what he'd been trained for, what he'd been conditioned to do--and she'd always feared that one day he would be called upon to give his life for the sake of this world that he'd regained. It had been the greatest threat to their happiness, but one that she had never allowed to conquer her. . .one that she wouldn't let defeat her now.
"I'm going with you," she said firmly, moving to stand at his side to study the scene on the viewer.
He turned swiftly, startled, then he reached out and put his hands on her shoulders. "Do you know what you're saying?" he said sternly. "Surely you know what will happen!"
"That's why I want to be with you," she said huskily. "We've been through too much together to be parted now. . . . Look!" she gasped with relief. "Gary. . .we won't have to go after all! Somebody must have called the authorities. . .or maybe they were expecting something like this. . . ."
The image on the screen was flashing from one viewpoint to another, showing the dark figures milling about in confusion and fear as heavily armored vehicles continued to pour in from all sides, surrounding the would-be thieves. . .forcing them backwards, ever closer to the flames licking at the tanks--now almost hot enough to explode.
"Give yourselves up--you haven't got a chance!" Came the tinny sound of a voice over a public address system. There was the sharp crackle of laser fire as robot figures advanced, striking weapons out of the raiders' hands.
"They've gotten things under control," Gary agreed as he watched. "Those robots are hard to beat."
Now the scene had become one of relative peace. The raiders were all in custody, and the Fire Service was moving in to contain the blaze. Aircars were already dropping fire-smothering foam over the tanks to quench the flames, quenching the flames only seconds before the critical point was reached.
"Turn on the telecommunications intercept," Gary ordered the computer. "That won't be the only reaction to the take-over. We'd better be ready for anything and everything. . . . Ahuh! I thought he'd be making his move about now!" This sharp comment was in reaction to the image that had just appeared on the screen. "He must have had someone on the Station, ready to take over the minute he gave the word. . . ."
They listened to the voice coming from the screen--the carefully chosen phrases, delivered in soothing tones that resounded through the room like the notes of a golden bell.
"I still can't believe it," Roberta said as she glared at the image on the screen--a tall, powerfully built man, with golden-hued skin and long, black hair. The eyes, even through the medium of television, were magnetic in their gaze, and the charisma of the man seemed to surround him like a cloak. "He was only one of many dignitaries who met us top-side at the Archives day before yesterday! There didn't seem to be anything exceptional about him when he came forward to present the microdot files of his country's records and treasures. I noticed that he was taller and in better physical condition than the others, and he was very charming, but--"
"Too charming," Gary interrupted, taking his eyes from the image long enough to look at her. "I should have realized that he was far more suave and sophisticated than he seemed. I feel responsible for this. Several years ago, the Beta Five warned us that a group of scientists had been conducting eugenic experiments. Though records stated that all the children from those experiments had been executed or had died of natural causes, I should have made sure!"
"Gary, you have no reason to blame yourself," Roberta said with swift sympathy. "We did everything we could! We, and the other agents, alerted the authorities to the danger at the time. They fought it with every resource at their command, and everything indicated that they'd won. . . . A coup this widespread had access to forces stronger than anything we've ever fought before. . . !"
"So now that man will soon have at least one-fourth of the Earth under his rule," Gary whispered angrily. "If only I'd known! Two days ago, I could have stopped Khan Noonian Singh. Now, he's too powerful--too well guarded. I shudder to think what the future holds."
"Maybe we won't be able to stop him, but we can fight him and slow him down!" Roberta insisted.
"We'll certainly do our best. What the--!" He broke off at the sound of a soft, melodious chiming coming from every corner of the room--coming seemingly from the very air itself.
"Gary!" Roberta gasped. "That's the same sound Isis made when she left! Do you suppose she'd been sent back to help us?" She didn't know if she was pleased or dismayed by the possibility of the return of the being who had been both a help and a hindrance to her during their earlier years.
"I don't know," Gary turned to face the center of the room, where a shimmering curtain of iridescent light was whirling, coalescing into a gently shining globe. "I don't think it is Isis. I believe. . . ." He paused, watched while the globe elongated then solidified into a humanoid form.
"That last color was distinctive," Gary continued, and there was a note of anticipation in his voice, of welcome, and of eagerness---the eagerness of a son waiting to greet a long-absent father. "Khepera!"
The humanoid form was complete now--apparently a man about six feet five inches tall. . .austere of countenance and lean, rather than thin. His hair and eyes were dark, and his bearing was aristocratic, not needing the trappings of nobility to brand him as such. At first, he seemed to be clad in a tunic-like, pleated, white garment--much like the type that had been worn in ancient Egypt, including a headband set with a scarab jewel. He frowned, then there was a sudden intensity in the lighting of the room as though a flashbulb had gone off. As the light ebbed, the stranger became visible again--first enveloped in a cloak reminiscent of the 1890's, then clad in an impeccable, late 20th-Century-style black business suit, relieved only by the crisp white folds of a handkerchief tucked into the still-in-vogue breast pocket.
"Gary Seven, I greet you," he said quietly, one hand lifted in a gesture signifying both peace and acknowledgment of identity.
"I greet you, Khepera," Gary replied and bent his head slightly in respect.
"This is your companion?" Khepera inquired as he turned his dark gaze toward Roberta.
"This is Roberta, my wife," Gary answered with a note of deep pride in his voice as he brought her forward a few steps. Roberta. This is Khepera, my teacher and my guide, from Sekhet-Hetep. Surely he will help us--!"
"No. I have come to inform you that your assignment here on Earth is now finished," Khepera informed them gently, wasting no time.
"You wouldn't come in person for something as minor as that!" Gary exclaimed. "Besides, I must stay and help--!"
"That is why you must leave," Khepera explained patiently. "You are allowing yourself to become too involved. "If you remain, you will do more harm than good. . . ."
"Are you going to send Gary to a planet that's like Earth was when he first came here?" Roberta demanded. "If you do, I'm telling you right now that I intend to go with him!"
"The danger that both of you represent now is too great for you to be assigned to any world."
"What 'danger'?" Gary demanded.
"Hear me, my children," Khepera demanded sternly. "The operatives you have trained will stay to help guide Earth through the troubles facing her, but you two may not remain. The Enterprise inadvertently revealed part of this world's future to you, then the two who were brought to this era by Romulans 'contaminated' you further. You know too much--."
"My God!" Roberta exclaimed. "Gary! He's from the future! He must be!"
"That is correct, my daughter," Khepera replied. "In a manner of speaking, I come from a time even far distant to the Enterprise, as well as--"
"Then you must know what will happen to Earth!" Roberta interrupted.
"Then. . .if you know. . .why all this. . .rigmarole with agents?"
"Our agents are merely overseers. We cannot, of course, tell them how history must read, for if we did they might subconsciously try to nudge that world along and create a paradox by thoroughly destroying time lines. Our supervisors come from the time in which they were born. We take them to a central era on our world, where they are trained to supervise agents whose forebearers were removed to our world centuries ago. The supervisors are exceptional people and totally natural to the time in which they work."
"I see." Roberta answered. "I think."
"I rarely travel through time, I've no need to, since my consciousness exists in all times----forever. However, it was vital that I appear here in physical form--for all concerned."
"Do you intend to hypnotize us to keep us from revealing what we know--or will you erase our memories?" Roberta insisted, and she couldn't help recalling when she'd asked a similar question--though under happier circumstances.
"Neither. The drastic techniques we would have to use on both of you would destroy you--and you're much too valuable to lose."
"Then, you are sending us to another 20th-Century-type world!"
"I told you earlier--no. The knowledge of the future that you have acquired would impel you to lay the foundation for discoveries made too soon--creating too many changes in time lines.
"Your Earth peoples have a saying: 'Better the evil you know than the evil you don't,'" Khepera continued. "The future as I know it and as the Enterprise had recorded it is worthwhile and promises much for the Universe. Who knows what terrors might result if you tamper with that future? The results would be much worse than what would have happened if the Guardian of Forever hadn't been able to help Captain Kirk to erase McCoy's tampering with the future when he went back to Earth's 1930's." (("City on the Edge of Forever", live STAR TREK episode.))
"So what have you decided?" Roberta asked, chilled.
"The Superiors of your future have made several surveys, and none of the predictions bode well if the two of you remain in this era. Therefore, I have two propositions to present to you:
"We can send you into the future, either to an era 125 years from now, or to the era of the Enterprise, where you may live out the rest of your lives undisturbed. Or. . . you may stay here and perish immediately.
Roberta grimaced. "That is no choice! But. . .if we leave, how will you cover our escape to the future?"
"You will simply disappear. This building will have to be totally destroyed in order to erase traces of our technology. There was only a skeleton crew here, since it's after hours. Imitating your voice, Gary, I sent all the operatives home to protect their families. No one will have to perish--but it can look as though you two did. It is your choice."
"Personally," Roberta stated bravely, only a slight quiver in her voice indicating that she was frightened by this sudden upheaval, "I'd prefer to go to the era where the Enterprise is on active duty, for we have friends there. Even if we couldn't contact them, knowing they're there would help. . . . Just how would we make this trip into the future? Will you take us with you?"
"Not exactly," Kehpera replied patiently. "This form that you see is an illusion. My true form is one of pure energy--thus I can slip physically from one time to another, but I can take nothing with me. Since history can be changed so easily, even we do not make such journeys except when there is great need. . .and then we attempt to go only to observe. We do nothing that will change the future--though we sometimes must resolve paradoxes that time-travelers, such as the Enterprise, could create."
"You didn't help us when we were tracking down those Romulans," Gary commented.
"We were not needed. Our records testified that, with the help of Isis, the Klingon, and the human woman, you successfully captured the Romulans and returned them to their proper time without creating any ripples in the time-flow."
"I've learned enough to know that our equipment here doesn't have the power to enable our transporter to send us through time," Roberta protested. "And I'll tell you right now that I don't care for the idea of--being turned into a - a globe of light!"
"You won't be," Khepera assured her tersely. "Weren't you listening when I told you that we are unable to take anyone or anything with us when we travel through time?"
"Yes," Roberta answered him bravely. "But I like to know what I'm getting into before I jump in with both feet."
"Understandable," Khepera nodded.
"We'll use a ship from Sekhet, Roberta," Gary informed his justifiably skeptical wife.
"Correct," Khepera agreed. "Nor will you change history when you do so. Our records show that a ship, piloted by one Gary Seven of Earth, left this world today and then was lost. No one living in this era will know what actually happens to you: You will use the shields to leave Earth without detection. You will not drop them until the moment before you achieve the exact degree of velocity that will open the time-warp. I shall go first and wait for you, then guide you through whatever section of space you enter until you can find your way to Sekhet-Hetep."
"That won't be necessary," Gary said, his eyes glinting with a sudden memory. "We can meet near Vulcan."
"In this era, our ships' instruments were not precise enough to pinpoint that world's exact position through the time-warp," Khepera warned him.
"They won't have to be. A beacon will bring us in," Gary retorted.
"There is no beacon for that purpose near Vulcan."
"I gave Lorna a homing device, disguised as a piece of jewelry, while she was with us. It served as a bio-monitor so the Beta Five could care for her and he unborn child. The device was keyed to her mental impulses and couldn't be used by anyone else, so I gave it to her when she left," Gary explained. "We can set the scanner to lock onto that beam through the time-warp. Lorna mentioned more than once that it would be necessary for the child to be born on Vulcan. I'm certain that she will be. . .was. . .is? Did she get back to Vulcan?"
"She did," Khepera confirmed, slightly amused at Gary's struggle with tenses.
"You know what happened to her and to her baby!" Roberta exclaimed. "Please tell us!"
"Not now." A slight shadow of regret clouded Khepera's brilliant eyes for a moment. They'd faced enough for one day. "You must concentrate your attentions on preparing for your journey."
"All the information has been transferred to the Archives. What about the Beta Five?" Gary asked a he surveyed the room.
"A stick of dynamite would take care of her," Roberta muttered under her breath.
"That will not be necessary," Khepera chided her, but his lips twitched with amusement. "There will not be enough room on the ship to take the Beta, for it is a scout vessel. A band of terrorists are raiding and looting the buildings along this street. They are aware of the electronic equipment installed here to conduct the routine work of the Archives. The doors have been reinforced with trititanium, and can't be battered in, so the terrorists will use an explosive charge. At the last moment, I will transmute the elements into thermite, which will destroy the building and everything in it. . .including the Beta Five. The terrorists will not know that they have helped to keep the future from being changed."
"Then. . . " Roberta faltered, feeling a twinge of sadness over the Beta's untimely end. After all, the two hadn't really been enemies. "Then, that takes care of everything!" A tremor in her voice betrayed her fear and excitement.
"Have you determined the pattern of the beam?" Khepera asked as Gary turned away from his final consultation with the Beta Five.
"Yes," Gary affirmed. "I set the Beta Five to plot the path of the beam while it remains the strongest. We'll reach the future only about four or five months, at the most, after the Lady Lorna."
"Excellent," Khepera smiled gently. "I shall await you there."
"Will we have someone like Isis with us in the future?" Roberta inquired, needing something familiar to anticipate.
"You will require much training in order to fit into that culture, so you will not need a companion for several human years."
"Naturally," Roberta whispered. "I wonder if we'll ever be able to learn enough to fit in anywhere?" she continued under her breath.
"Roberta," Gary said softly. "If Lorna could find a place for herself in the future, so can we." He clasped her hand tightly for a moment, then turned to Khepera. "Let's go!"
"We can spare enough time for you to choose a few personal items to take with you to ease the shock of transition."
There wasn't much they wanted to take. . . decades packed into one small parcel. Something fluttered out of a stack of papers Gary had checked swiftly before discarding them. He didn't notice it, for it had fallen beside and slightly beneath a chair, face down. Roberta bent and picked it up. A photograph. She turned it over, looked at it, then frowned. It was a photograph of a much younger Gary, wearing a General's insignia and pilot's gear, standing with a crew in front of a B-17 bomber from World War Two. She looked at the names scrawled in Gary's handwriting on the back, and her eyes grew wide with surprise at this indication that her husband was much older than he appeared--that he'd had another identity before leaving Earth the first time.
"Don't you want to take this, Gary?" she asked softly.
"What is it, Roberta?" He reached out for the picture. "Oh. . . . Yes, I think I will. . .they were good men. This will keep my memories of them from fading."
"You never told me about that part of our life," Roberta protested. "Why didn't you, Gary?"
"Never seemed any reason to." He smiled at her. "After all, that happened before you were born."
"I'd be interested anyway, because it's part of what you are."
"If there's ever time for me to tell you, it will really be ancient history," he reminded her.
"Not to me. It'll be a story about Home," she replied as she stepped into his arms.
"All right, Khepera," Gary said regretfully. "We're ready to go!"
Between one word and the next, Gary and Roberta found themselves still in each other's arms standing behind the seats of the scout ship. It took only a matter of moments to secure their parcel, then they strapped themselves in.
"Gary," Roberta said when he'd finished checking the controls to see what advances had been made while he'd been on Earth. "What would happen. . . ? I want to run off to the other side of the galaxy and try to forget all about the future. But if Khepera is right, and we don't leave this era, the Enterprise, and especially Kang and Lorna, might not exist. I wouldn't be able to live with that."
"How true," Gary said, chuckling wryly as he reached out to press the first switch. "Once Khepera had determined that we'd tried to run away, he'd come back and destroy us. The Superiors respect life, but if it's a question of the lives of two or three against the lives of all those yet unborn, they wouldn't hesitate to make any necessary. . .adjustments."
Roberta shuddered and then looked up at the screen that presented the varying panoramas of star-filled space surrounding the ship.
"Glad you told me," she said with false gaiety. "I'd hate to die before I had a chance to see what's waiting out there."
Gary pressed the final switch and the ship entered the dizzying effects of the time-warp.
Sekhet-Hetep, the world of the Superiors, turned peacefully below the Star Light. To any unknowing, unsuspecting visitor, it was rich, primal world, seemingly untouched by human hands. It was rugged in many places, a true wilderness, and perfect for colonization. The only problem with that was that Sekhet-Hetep was well away from any trade routes, in a "backwater" of the galaxy and few colonists would care to settle so far away from "civilization". In any event, the few reports on Sekhet-Hetep which had been filed with the Federation--or any other power for that matter--always ended up becoming "misplaced" before anyone in authority ever clapped eyes on them. (The Superiors were certainly far-reaching in their penetration of high-level operations.)
Beneath the surface of Sekhet-Hetep it was altogether another matter. Cleverly concealed entrances led to the subterranean civilization which existed there--a civilization for humanoids and other corporeal beings; not for the Superiors, who were energy beings and had no need of cities or mechanization. If the surface of Sekhet-Hetep was unspoiled, it was for the purpose of camouflage. Below, the immense technology and power needed to support subterranean life on a grand scale was shielded from discovery by power screens so sophisticated that even the most advanced sensing devices could not detect the fact that a shield existed.
The Superiors were ancient beings and had been "meddling" with other worlds for countless millennia. Their effect was apparent--on Earth anyhow--in certain adaptations the ancient Egyptian civilization had made in their religion. Khepera's original appearance underscored that point, for he had been "dressed" as an ancient Egyptian god. And a god he was. The Papyrus of Ani--better known as The Egyptian Book of the Dead--described Khepera as "a form of the rising Sun, and was both a type of matter which is on the point of passing from inertness into life, and also of the dead body which is about to burst forth into a new life in a glorified form."1 It is little wonder he made such an impression upon the ancient Egyptians if they ever saw him materialize into his human appearance.
1. See The Egyptian Book of the Dead, translated by E. A. Wallis Budge; Dover Publications, Inc., New York; Introduction - "The Gods of The Book of the Dead" - Khepera, Page cix.
The ancient Egyptians' structure of heaven was extremely complicated, consisting of many levels, one of which, "the Sekhet-Aanru is the third division of the Sekhet-Hetepu, or 'Fields of Peace', which have been compared with the 'Elysian Fields of the Greeks'."2 Interesting enough, Sekhet-Hetepu (or to use a more all-encompassing word--heaven) was named after the Superiors' home-world, Sekhet-Hetep.
2. Ibid. "Geographical and Mythological "laces" - Sekhet-Aanru, page cxxxvii.
All of this had been quite a revelation to Roberta Lincoln Seven after she and Gary had come forward in time. They had spent nearly five years on Sekhet just absorbing history and new technology, fitting themselves so that they could move around in their new era. Though it was all new to Roberta, even Gary had had a great deal to learn before they could even begin to think of training for their work as agents in the 23rd Century. Now that time had almost come.
The Superiors had decided that perhaps the best cover for Gary and Roberta would be as traders. They could wander at will--even into hostile territories such as the Klingon Empire--with immunity; as long as they had something worthwhile to trade, anyway. They would be couriers--liaisons between the Superiors and Federation agents, and the Klingon agents.
They had already undertaken several minor trading assignments, mainly for the purpose of establishing their cover identities and getting the feel of their new occupation. They were now returning from their most difficult assignment, and one, which netted them a cargo, which would allow them to trade anywhere.
Their cargo was dilithium!
Ordinarily, the Federation would not have allowed Federation traders to peddle dilithium crystals to the Klingons, but this was an unusual situation. The dilithium came from a planet called Traxia, where dilithium was about as common as quartz was on Earth. There, dilithium was found lying all over the ground. The Traxians had absolutely no use for the dilithium, but they also had absolutely no use for humanoids, either. They were peaceful, total isolationists, who so thoroughly enjoyed their hermit existence that they didn't want contact with anyone. The Traxians were total telepaths as well, with mental powers so strong that they could easily engulf a human. Even a Vulcan had no defense against the Traxians. Come to think of it, there was no such thing as a defense against the Traxians, for their peculiar telepathic abilities could be combined to overwhelm anyone or anything--including a fleet of starships!
The Federation had approached the Traxians with an offer of friendship, as well as an offer to join the Federation. The Federation could protect the seemingly defenseless Traxians (who had no highly-evolved technology and were, therefore, a "defenseless" planet) and at the same time, the Federation would reap the benefits of all those "worthless" rocks just lying around Traxia. The Federation would be more than happy to get those stones out from under the natives' feet. The Traxians had telepathically thumbed their collective noses at the Federation.
Next came the Klingons with a similar offer. They received a similar answer. But the Klingons were more persistent than the Federation and had tried force. After all, what could those unarmed Traxians do against a starship? The Traxians had shown them. They'd simply enveloped the invading Klingons in telepathically projected hallucinations, and that had been the end of that matter. The Klingons had scuttled out of orbit just as soon as the Traxians had released them from the hallucinogenic web.
But the problem remained.
Traxia sat peacefully just beyond the territories officially claimed by the two super powers in unclaimed space. Worse yet, it was also in territory not encompassed by the Organian Neutral Zone. Of course, as things stood, Traxia didn't need the protection of Organia, and the Klingons and the Federation weren't about to fight each other over that planet. No way! But, the two powers watched Traxia like two hounds after the same rabbit: the Federation ostensibly to protect the Traxians' right of Freedom of Choice, and the Klingons ostensibly to protect Traxia from invasion by the Federation. The truth of the matter was that they were both just watching, trying to figure out the best way to crack the Traxia nut. So far, they hadn't even any idea as to what sort of nutcracker to use, much less where to apply it.
Neither power would just back off and leave Tyaxia alone, for both powers wanted that dilithium, and neither trusted the other. All the super powers really cared about was the dilithium, and once they had that, the Traxians could go their merry way. But the Traxians weren't happy with the status quo. Yet, they weren't about to let two violent, opposing factions loose to go rock hunting on their soil.
The Superiors had informed Gary and Roberta of the situation and had told them that if they could get a franchise for Traxian dilithium, they'd have the perfect reason for trading with both sides. The Traxians weren't exactly amenable to the idea and hadn't been easy to convince, though by that time they were getting tired of all the growling around their formerly peaceful, secluded home.
Thanks to Gary's mental training, he was able to make headway, for he didn't radiate emotions and thoughts as most humans did. Since his mind also contained a nearly unbreachable "lock," the Traxians learned nothing about the Superiors and were, if anything intrigued by this unusual human. They also learned nothing from Roberta, for she stayed aboard ship, where the Superiors had installed equipment, which served as an effective mental shield. The "mind blanker" only made the Traxians all the more curious, and Gary at least got a foot in the dilithium mine.
Eventually they reached an agreement: No ships were to visit Traxia except for the Star Light. The Traxians would gather the dilithium (it would give them a new hobby to occupy their time). Gary would pick up the dilithium and trade it equally to both the Federation and the Empire. Both powers, when informed of the situation, wanted to know why Gary had succeeded when they hadn't. The obvious answer had been that he'd been the only one who'd visited the planet without trying to throw his weight around. Both powers still groused a bit, for each wanted all the dilithium. However, logic prevailed, since it was infinitely more preferable to get half of something rather than all of nothing. Gary and Roberta left Traxia with the trade agreement in hand and a hold jam-packed with dilithium. Their cover was well established as they orbited Sekhet-Hetep to begin intensive training before they began their work as agents.
And home never looked so good!
As far as anyone knew, Lorna and Sarek were taking a well-earned rest from their Ambassadorial duties, leaving Sartonn, their talented assistant, in charge. Actually, though they did go into the L'langon Mountains, they didn't remain there. At the darkest hour of the first night they spent there, a ship picked them up and took them to Sekhet-Hetep.
At the same time, Kang and Mara, who had taken leave for a well-earned hunting trip on Shabas, were also picked up. Barring a sector-wide war, or an invasion from outside the known part of the galaxy, they wouldn't be disturbed for several of their weeks--more than long enough for the extensive training session that would mold them, as well as Lorna and Sarek, into an effective team.
At first, Lorna could hardly believe her eyes. Both Gary Seven and then Sarek had told her that the Superiors were more advanced than all the other races in the Galaxy. She had assumed that their planet would be a veritable Fairyland of technology and engineering. On the surface, however, this was not so. Instead, the planet resembled nothing so much as a lovely, uninhabited world, totally untouched and unspoiled.
Hand-in-hand, like young lovers instead of a staid Vulcan married couple, Lorna and Sarek walked through a fragrant grove of trees resembling the Terran pines Lorna loved so much. They made their way toward the sound of water falling over rocks, broke through the final bit of cover, and stood on the bank of a clear, shallow stream.
"I'm disappointed!" Lorna said laughingly. She broke from Sarek's gentle clasp and moved to the very edge of the bank, looking down into the water at the colorful, darting fish. "If this stream had been deep enough, I'd have gone swimming. Look it's not even deep enough to let me go wading--and enjoy it."
"You will find what you are seeking at another stream," Sarek assured her, the corners of his mouth turning upwards slightly in an indulgent smile. "We are encouraged to seek exercise in the open as much as possible. Come, we are expected."
Lorna hesitated for only a moment, then she turned to join her fingers with Sarek's and they walked toward a huge cliff that towered over the grove. Halfway there, they passed through a clump of boulders. There, leaning comfortably against one of those boulders, was a tall, bearded figure, obviously waiting for them.
"Well now. . . ," he said as he stood erect and approached them, the sunlight glinting brightly off the badges which, with the scarf marking him as still a Captain of a battle-cruiser, contrasted against the black uniform that fitted him to perfection. "It took you two long enough to get here!"
"Kang!" Lorna's eyes glowed with pleasure, and she moved forward to greet him. She'd taken only a step or so, however, when she looked beyond him to see Mara, his lady, watching. She was clad in a garment made from a metallic fabric that gleamed in the sunlight like spun silver, and she looked every inch the warrior-maid.
"Lady Mara, greetings," Lorna said as she lifted her hand in formal salute.
"Greetings, Lady Lorna," Mara said as she saluted in kind, then she smiled. "Go ahead, greet my husband as you wish. I won't pull a knife on you. I know that you are only good friends." So saying, she came forward and lifted her hand in greeting to Sarek, who had paused a few steps away.
"Wilar, Sarek. I found some geodes on the other side of these boulders. I was about to split them open to see what they may contain. Will you join me?"
"Yes," Sarek replied as his eyebrow rose swiftly. "Vulcan has few geodes and, though I have seen some, I have never opened any. Please lead the way."
Kang watched until his wife and Sarek were out of sight beyond the boulders, then he turned back to Lorna. "Ka itazi tarndaro," he said quietly.
"Kang," Lorna responded, reaching out to grip the wrist of his stronger arm in the gesture of Peace that he had taught her while he had been on Vulcan. "It's good to see you. . .!" She gasped softly, for her fingers had not closed about the wrist scabbard that he had always worn there.
"Aye," he replied to her unspoken question as he turned and fell into step beside her, bending his arm so she could tuck her hand in the crook of his elbow as they walked. "Here, I have learned to discard the sirp, but only here. I must wear it elsewhere to protect myself."
"Perhaps the day will come when you can discard it completely," Lorna said. She didn't need the swift glance and the wry smile he gave her to tell her that he didn't share her belief.
They continued to walk and to talk, sharing the experiences and events that they'd already "talked" about through their unique mental linkage, but expressions, gestures, and vocal tones added so much more.
Like any proud parents, they discussed their children, then Kang produced a picture of his son.
"Kiloran stands as tall and straight as a lance," Lorna murmured as she gazed at the reproduction of the stalwart youth standing astride his kill. "What is the beast?"
"It is a Buhrng. It is much admired for its size, strength, and ferocity. To slay a Buhrng in personal combat with only traditional edged weapons is the ultimate act of courage and war-skill. This, of course, was not an adult Buhrng; we would not give our youths a test which lies beyond their skills."
"A maturity test?" Lorna asked, intrigued by the similarity between their two cultures. As Kang nodded, she observed: "It seems a bit brutal."
"Aye," Kang replied. "But necessary. Our sons and daughters must be trained to live off the land. . .no matter how their parents may have come to view their former lives. A half-mature Buhrng provides this needed training. They are fierce--and it is extremely rare that a man may come away from combat with an adult Buhrng unmaimed. Ours is a rugged way of life."
She nodded. "Your ways are not ours. I wish violence was not a necessity in your life, but I understand that it must be so."
"Customs are changing slightly," Kang informed her with an unconscious note of pride in his voice.
"Only because your efforts to change the Empire's attitudes have been successful," Lorna replied. She paused, turned to look up into his face, then reached up to touch his left temple. "Those wings of white were not there when last we met, my friend."
"No. I consider them badges of honor," he said quietly.
"And so you should," Lorna assured him. She reached up again and gently touched the fine laugh lines at the corner of each eye. "I think I like these better--they tell me that you have learned to laugh. . .other than in the heat of battle, perhaps?"
"I have learned to find joy in the very fact of living, of being with those who are of my blood," he confirmed. "I enjoy protecting that which is mine with words instead of with weapons; of training my young. . ." His voice trailed into silence, and he frowned darkly.
"There is a problem you wish to discuss?" she said formally, but with the warmth that was so much a part of her.
"It is a problem, but I--," he began brusquely then relented. "Time grows short. Before long, Kiloran will be coming aboard the Klothar to serve as an apprentice under my rule--as tradition demands."
"I rejoice in your pride," Lorna said automatically then stopped, for she realized that she had misunderstood what he had said. She reviewed his statement mentally and then she frowned in turn. "You have not told him of your affiliation with the Superiors."
"There has been no opportunity to tell him since he's been old enough to understand and keep the secret."
"If there is anything I can do--"
"I have but to ask--I know," he finished the statement for her. "However, it will be impossible for you to help. It is my problem, Lorna, and I shall solve it."
They abandoned the topic of Kiloran with common accord and returned to the progress of her own children. With quiet pride, she told him of the talents they were revealing.
"A female possessing great mathematical skills!" Kang roared with laughter. "Aye, I should have enjoyed seeing her teachers' faces when they discovered that."
"It is not that way with our people, Kang. . .they know that a woman can possess a brain, use it, and still be feminine."
He grinned down at her, well aware that she was thinking it hadn't been so very long ago that he had believed that women had no place aboard starships. She refrained from continuing the discussion and walked silently beside him, enjoying their friendship.
"How does Sarek's son regard his brother?" Kang inquired, aware that he was treading on dangerous ground, but truly interested. He wondered how a man so much older could accept a sibling who gave indication of becoming an equally skilled scientist.
"They rejoice in each other's likenesses and differences, as they should," Lorna said quietly, and Kang didn't press the matter further,
"Kang," Lorna asked as they turned back toward the boulders. "Now that Kiloran is in training, what has happened to Afhal?"
"Judge for yourself." He hesitated then used the habitual hand signal to call the Riar.
Afhal rose from the sun-bathed ledge and flowed down the boulders to join them.
"Strange," Lorna murmured. "The way she stretched reminded me of - of--"
"Gary Seven's companion, Isis?" Kang interrupted. "She is."
As he spoke, the Riar sitting grooming itself dwindled and darkened into the form of the cat Lorna had known.
This reminder of her dead friends brought a mist to Lorna's eyes. She caught her lower lip between her teeth for a moment. "It seems only yesterday that we were on Old Earth," she said in response to Kang's inquiring glance. "It hurts to think of how Gary and Roberta died."
"You know? Afhal never checked. . . " he indicated a convenient flat stone. "Tell me." After listening to what little she could tell him, Kang smiled grimly. "You will find it poor comfort, I know, Lorna, but they died like warriors."
Knowing that this was one of the highest forms of Klingon praise, Lorna nodded.
There was the sound of footsteps, and they turned to watch Sarek and Mara approaching, comparing and trading halves of the geodes they were carrying.
"I think I see a friendship growing there such as the one you and I share," Kang murmured.
"Mara is deeply interested in scientific matters; Sarek is, too. I think they will mesh well in this new association which the Superiors plan for us," Lorna said calmly.
"Kang!" Mara exclaimed as they stopped before the still seated couple, so engrossed in her geodes that she didn't even think of feeling threatened. "We found the tracks of an animal back there that Afhal tells me is something like our Tefal. Perhaps there may be time for a hunt."
"I shall make the request," Kang said, still seated comfortably on the rock beside Lorna. "Vulcan, would you care to join us in such a hunt?"
"We do not kill animals," Sarek replied quietly.
"This animal--at least, the ones we are accustomed to hunting--is a type that we must kill if it does not kill us first. I think that the ones on this world are not quite like that. . .eh, Afhal?" Kang listened for a moment then nodded. "Aye, the Tefal on this world is a reasoning beast, but it is not allowed to kill those who hunt it. . .nor are they allowed to kill it. The hunt would be for the sport, for the challenge. Running it to ground would be the end."
"We follow a similar practice on Vulcan. I will participate in that sort of hunt without hesitation."
"Good!" Kang approved. "It will also give us a chance to know each other better." And give me a chance to take your measure more fully, as well, Vulcan! he thought undiplomatically.
"Do you agree with me that only the men should take part in this hunt they plan?" Mara asked as she turned to Lorna.
Lorna hesitated for a moment then nodded reluctantly.
"Aye, for we will have opportunities to join in future hunts. We can use that time to become better acquainted--in our own way." Mara leaned to touch Kang's arm. "It is past time--we must report."
Kang nodded, rose, and tucked Mara's hand in the curve of his arm. Sarek lifted one eyebrow as he watched them, then he extended his fingers to Lorna.
She could sense that he would allow her to walk arm-in-arm with him if she wished, but she touched his fingers with hers and then let her hand drop to her side. It wasn't often that she took advantage of his willingness to behave according to her customs when they were off-Vulcan. Even in the presence of these, who were apparently destined to become very special friends, she didn't deem it suitable to depart so far from Vulcan custom.
The next morning, Sarek and Lorna joined Kang and Mara in the corridor.
"Did you discover who the other couple is that we'll be working with?" Kang inquired as he motioned for Sarek to lead the way. After all, the Vulcan had been here before.
"No, but we shall find out soon enough."
They paused before the proper door. Kang and Sarek stood looking at one another for a moment, for both were accustomed to going through doorways ahead of everyone else.
Lorna wondered how they would settle this question of protocol.
"One of us must go first," Kang observed.
"No need," Sarek reached out to touch the signal.
"It's open," a female voice announced over the speaker. "Come on in."
Sarek motioned to Kang then matched his steps with the Klingon's so they went through the wide portal at the same time.
They all paused just inside the archway of the entrance.
"We'll be out in a minute," the voice said again. "Go on into the solarium and sit down."
The foursome followed their unseen hostess' directions and found themselves in a transparently roofed room furnished with comfortable chairs and divans.
They'd hardly sat down before Kang leaned forward, "I think that voice sounded familiar to you," he said to Lorna.
"Yes, but I can't remember where I've heard it before."
"Lorna," the Klingon said, startling her, "I've heard it, too."
"Do you remember where?"
"No. Since we have both heard it before, she must have been someone who served aboard the Enterprise?"
A door opened on the other side of the room and a slender woman entered. She paused and looked at Lorna for a moment, her eyes twinkling with amusement.
Lorna stared back, realizing that she was being rude, but she couldn't help it.
The woman's face was traced with a few wrinkles, signs of maturity, and her beautifully styled blonde hair was touched with strands of white.
Lorna's eyes widened suddenly with sheer disbelief, for she realized she'd seen this woman's face in an obituary.
Almost as if they'd been impelled by the same thought, Lorna and Kang rose and approached Roberta Lincoln Seven--though the Klingon stopped several steps away, unconsciously preparing for trouble. Lorna moved closer and continued to study Roberta's features, obviously bewildered, but controlling her physical reactions.
"Yes, it's me," Roberta said with a soft laugh. "Kang, I think you're handsomer now than you were the last time I saw you. That white hair at each temple is very distinctive."
Before he could answer, she turned back to Lorna.
"I'm sorry that you lost your first child." Then, looking beyond Lorna's shoulder for a moment, she tried to ease her tension. "That must be Sarek. He's a lot younger than he appeared to be in the picture Beta Five created from your memories."
Lorna was past listening, for her control was beginning to slip. She stared at the door, every nerve tingling as she anticipated the next shock. The panel swished open, and the man whose death she'd accepted entered the room.
A roaring sound filled Lorna's ears, a chilling numbness swept over her as she lifted one hand in protest. "It - it can't be! You - you're both dead--!"
The numbness increased, and a whirling cloud of fog seemed to envelop her, blotting out the faces before her.
"Lorna!" She heard Sarek's voice as if from a great distance, but she couldn't answer. The fog was getting thicker, darker; her limbs began to tremble with weakness; she felt herself swaying as her human body overcame her attempt at Vulcan control.
"She's gone into shock. . .look out!" / "I've got her!"
Lorna didn’t lose consciousness completely; she knew when a pair of strong arms caught her to keep her from falling to the floor. She knew when those arms swept her up and then put her down on a resilient surface. She knew when Sarek moved to take his place beside her and took her limp, cold hands between his own--seeking to transfer some of his warmth and strength to her.
At last the weakness and coldness subsided, and she was able to breathe normally again. She lay with her eyes closed for a moment longer, gathering her strength, then she opened her eyes.
Sarek was still holding her hands, but he was sitting beside her, out of her range of vision. When she blinked to clear the mist from her eyes, the first things she saw were the expressions of concern on Roberta and Gary's faces.
"There," Roberta said with relief. "She's coming out of it. . . . Hot, sweet tea is one of the best things to treat shock. There are no side effects like with drugs!" So saying, the ever-practical Roberta turned and headed for the food service area.
Kang and Mara, realizing that they would only be in the way, retreated to the opposite side of the room.
Lorna sat up slowly. Sarek put his arm around her and held her tightly. She leaned against his side and continued to gather her strength.
"I'm sorry, Lorna," Gary apologized as he reached back to pull up a chair and then sat down in front of the divan. "We wanted to surprise you, but we had no idea you'd react like that."
"No. . . . It was foolish of me!" she gasped. "I'd hoped so long that you two were really alive, but I'd finally accepted the fact of your deaths. I - I just couldn't believe it when I saw you. . . ."
Gary held out his hand.
Lorna pulled her hand free of Sarek's clasp and reached out. Strong, warm fingers curled about hers comfortingly.
"Am I a ghost?" Gary demanded quietly.
"No. You're real. . . . But--how? Sarek told me there were no traces. . . ! We - we believed that you both had been killed. . . !"
"And so did I, after Lorna told me what she had learned regarding your 'deaths,'" Kang said as he and Mara moved to stand nearer the trio. "This matter needs much explaining, for I thought you helped your world during its Genetics Wars."
"Eugenics," Sarek corrected automatically. "However, there is enough similarity between the words that your error is understandable."
"Here, Lorna," Roberta reached past Gary and handed Lorna a Haviland China teacup. "Drink that; you'll feel better." I was right! she thought when Lorna recognized the cup. She's been in this era longer than I have, but things from her past are still comforting!
"...and so, we came to the future," Roberta said, drawing the narrative of their journey through time to a close.
"I find it fascinating that there were no traces of your presence here," Sarek mused, "I made a brief visit shortly after Talitha and Suvil were born to register them at the Center, but did not--"
"It had to be that way," Gary said firmly, "until we'd found a place for ourselves. I'd lived in this era before, while I was being trained to become a Supervisor back in the 20th Century. . .but it wasn't quite so easy for Roberta. Khepera agreed that it would be best that we remain anonymous until we were ready to assume our new roles."
"We're among friends, Gary," Roberta said proudly. "He's left out the most important part--he could have gone on without me. . .but he wouldn't. He stayed here and took the elementary training over again with me, helping me to adjust. Because of him, I had a much easier time adapting to this era than you did, Lorna."
"I rejoice in your good fortune," Lorna said calmly, but her eyes were saying what the wife of a Vulcan couldn't allow her lips to speak.
"You have kept your own names here; do you use them elsewhere as well?" Kang asked.
"Yes," Gary replied.
"And," Roberta continued, "if anyone ever gets curious, we are our own descendants!"
"Imminently practical," Sarek commented.
"And you have been roaming about this galaxy as traders for the past two years?" Kang chimed in. "It sounds like a good life. . .but it will not be easy to give up."
"The Superiors have told us that we'll maintain our identities as traders," Gary said. "You've already admitted that there are times when Lorna will be unable to transfer the information you might wish to send--and maintain perfect accuracy. That's where we can help, for we sell dilithium to both the Empire and to the Federation."
"Logical," Sarek approved. "Traders may move with relative immunity--and you carry a commodity that will increase your freedom. The six of us have much to contribute."
"Seven," Gary corrected him, speaking too casually.
"There's still one other to be brought into the group?" Mara inquired, missing the cue. "Where. . . ?"
"Taking her nap in the next room," Roberta replied. "That was why we couldn't be at the door to greet you. She was being a bit stubborn about taking her afternoon rest break; she knew company was coming."
"'She'?" Lorna echoed, thoroughly delighted.
"Yes," Gary slipped one arm about Roberta's shoulders and gave her an affectionate squeeze. "This wife of mine never does anything by the book. We never had children while we were on Old Earth. However, the time-trip jolted our systems and reactivated her hormones. Even the medical scanners couldn't detect it during the first few weeks after we'd gotten here, for our systems were too unsettled. By the time they'd finished our medical rehabilitation, her pregnancy was well-established."
"I didn't do it alone, remember!" Roberta said almost accusingly as she glared up at him. "You were never reluctant to cooperate--."
Gary's skillful arm tightened to swing her around for a kiss. He remembered then that strangers--one a Vulcan--were present and released her slowly.
"How old is your daughter?" Lorna asked after an awkward pause, guessing their presence had curtailed a familiar bit of intimate byplay.
"A couple of years older than your twins," Gary said proudly. "And I got my wish--she's a natural blonde."
"What did you name her?" Lorna inquired, her voice not revealing the sudden pang she'd just felt, for she'd become aware of the fact that Gary's daughter was only a few months younger than Angela would have been.
"At first, we thought about naming her Mary Sue, but then we decided that Jane would be more suitable." Roberta watched Lorna, wondering if she knew the meaning of the name.
"Derived from the Hebrew language of Earth, meaning 'The Gracious Gift of God'," Sarek commented, for he was the one who had spent time making a study of names and their meanings. "A sentimental gesture, perhaps; but your motives can be understood. Truly, your daughter could be considered a gift."
Mara eyed Roberta speculatively. "How well does a child work out? I mean, we had Kiloran before. . . . Do other agents have young children, and if so, do they stay with their parents?"
"Some do," Roberta answered. "It all depends on the situation. Unless there is a crisis, we aren't discouraged. The Superiors seem to feel that agents produce offspring who would be of benefit to the Superiors' plans. The children grow up in this organization, and many become agents."
"I assume then," Mara continued, "that the Superiors encouraged you to have the child after she was conceived."
"They didn't have to encourage me," Roberta said. "There was no way I'd have terminated the pregnancy."
"The Superiors would have had a real battle on their hands if they'd even suggested an abortion," Gary put in. "Fortunately, they revere life--that of the unborn included--too much to suggest such a thing, unless carrying the child would have endangered Roberta's own life. Even then, the Superiors have the technology to successfully sustain an embryo outside the womb in vitro."
"Don't forget," Roberta said, "I grew up at a time when an abortion was a horrifying thing. It was considered murder. Even when the tide of opinion shifted, and women thought they had a right to do with their bodies as they wished--with no thought taken to the right of the baby to life--I still felt that abortion was murder. Besides, I. . .both of us, wanted Jane very much. She's a culmination of our love for each other, and I'm only happy the Superiors agree with that thinking. It's quite possible to combine our work with having families, and I think we're all richer for it. I know of several couples here on Sekhet who have young children. Some children do stay with their parents. Others are cared for here when their parents are absent."
"And Jane?" Lorna prompted.
Gary grinned as Roberta replied, "She travels with us. We have a full sized Beta complex in our quarters, and a miniature version of it in the Star Light. The Beta handles many things for us, including the busy-work of child rearing."
"I know Jane is no longer in diapers, but surely a computer can't change a baby!" Lorna protested.
"This one did," Roberta retorted. "The Beta is equipped with robot arms. She can do anything with her hands that a human can. Now that Jane is old enough, the Beta supervises her education when we're away from Sekhet."
"Does Jane enjoy her life?" Mara asked.
Roberta nodded enthusiastically. "Very much. She meets many new people and has experiences other children can only dream of. The galaxy is her classroom. For all intents and purposes, we are gypsies, and Jane will grow up as a gypsy. It's a freer life than most children know, but it's a good one. I guess Jane was born with a wanderlust. You should see her face whenever we make planet-fall on a new world. She's so eager to experience it."
"Our greatest concern," Gary added, "was that Jane would be deprived of roots, thanks to our wandering life."
"But her roots are in us," Roberta smiled at Gary. "And they're planted in the firm, fertile soil of our love. I don't think she'll suffer at all."
"No," Lorna mused. "If anything, she's lucky. I had a family, and even though we changed residences as often as the Conference demanded, we still were able to stay at each charge long enough for it to be ‘Home’. But I never really felt those roots. I think you're right, Roberta. The roots are with the family--not the place one lives--."
"Philosophy has its place," Kang interrupted, "but this seems to be becoming a bit much."
"You're right," Roberta responded.
Lorna's mood brightened as she asked, "Do you have a feud going with your present Beta, Roberta? I well remember you and the Beta Five."
"If anything," Gary replied, laughing, "the present feud is much worse. Roberta and the new Beta don't get along at all."
A giggle broke into the conversation and a childish voice said, "That's because both Mummy and Beta want to be boss."
They all turned to the door behind them to see a cherubic, golden-curled little girl peeking around the doorframe.
Gary chuckled and held out his hand. "That's right, Baby."
Jane's face dimpled in a wide, wonder-filled smile as she ran to him and crawled up into his lap. She sat and rubbed sleep from her deep blue eyes, then gazed at each of the strangers in the room.
"Who are you?" she asked with a child's direct manner.
"They are very old, and very dear friends, Jane," Gary told her. "You will be seeing a great deal of them from now on."
Jane gazed at each adult in turn as they were introduced then solemnly asked, "Are you like aunts and uncles?"
The grownups eyed each other, not sure how to reply to that ringer. Finally Gary said, "Honey, they're not exactly aunts and uncles . . ."
As Jane cast a confused glance over the adults, Kang blinked rapidly several times and cleared his throat. When he spoke, his normally gruff voice was softened quite a bit. "Jane, although we're not related, it would. . .please me greatly if you called me Taramu Kang--Uncle Kang."
Gary and Roberta exchanged glances of sympathetic understanding, each knowing that Jane had reminded Kang of the daughter who'd not been allowed to live. (("While We're Apart", SHOWCASE II, February 1975.))
Again Jane's pink cheeks dimpled in a smile. Then she climbed off Gary's lap and ran to Kang, throwing her chubby arms around him in an affectionate hug.
Lorna ached in muscles where she didn't even know she had places. A week of extensive work in the gyms under the specialized techniques that had been programmed for the four of them had been difficult, but it had certainly limbered them up and had made them more receptive to the medical treatments that were a matter of routine.
Today, however, they had been given time off either to seek pleasure or to just rest and give their bodies a chance to become more fully adjusted to the 28-hour day.
Kang and Sarek had gone hunting. Gary had been invited but needed to check some reports that had just been sent in. He'd had to beg off, because he'd not be finished before they left.
Though she'd risen to eat breakfast with Sarek, Lorna had not argued when he'd suggested that she go back to bed.
Instead of sleeping, though, she'd been thinking of what had happened the previous day. She had finally managed to establish the rapport between herself, Mara, and Roberta that they would need if this arrangement was to be a success. The three women had found that they had much in common, and they had whiled away many boring hours during the training and toughening processes by sharing thoughts, ideas, and experiences. The mind-locks had been achieved because Mara had said that she couldn't understand the communion that Kang shared with Lorna. She wanted to try to experience it herself. One thing had led to another; once the communication flow had been established, it hadn't taken long to bring Roberta into their circle.
Now, the only one still on the outside was Gary Seven. Lorna wasn't sure she would ever be able to establish the mind-lock with him. She'd never found a moment when she'd felt it would be a proper time to broach the subject. She wasn't afraid of him, but there was a forcefulness, a sense of purpose, which clung to the man like an aura. His single-minded dedication to his chosen work sometimes exhausted her, for it seemed he never slowed down. Still, he was extremely sensitive and often gave indication that he was aware of the thoughts and feelings of others. Though he could concentrate on his work, he also kept Roberta and Jane front-and-center in his life--a combination that Lorna had always felt was impossible in men of the 20th Century.
But, as she'd learned in her years with Sarek, she would not try to force the mind-lock; to do so would defeat its entire purpose. Only when or if the time was right would she attempt it.
She turned over and stared up at the ceiling, wincing as a rather tender bruise on her arm made contact with the bed. She didn't find sleep waiting there, for she started counting the varying designs of the mosaic patterns.
Before she got up, she spent a few enjoyable moments checking in with Suvil and Talitha--not actually communicating with them, but listening to see that they were well and happy.
Another cup of coffee, a refreshing shower--that satisfied her longing for the sensation of water cascading over her flesh. Now what? Call Mara or Roberta? No, she sensed that they were pleasantly occupied with tasks or interests of their own. Besides, she hadn't had a chance to be alone since she and Sarek had arrived on Sekhet; she'd enjoy doing some exploring on her own. From force of habit, she reached for one of her Vulcan robes, then she put it back. They'd been issued garments similar to the costumes that Gary and Roberta wore. Lorna found them an interesting change from the flowing robes that she needed on Vulcan. They did suit her new hairstyle. Even Sarek had admitted that long hair was a handicap in the gym. Of course, it wouldn't be the first time that she had gone back to Vulcan with short hair--but Vulcans wouldn't demand an explanation for such a change, anyway. Donning one of the new garments, she set out on her self-appointed mission.
For quite a number of hours, Lorna wandered about the complex, looking through the shops, which were arranged in a mall. The Superiors, of course, had no need for such things, but the underground complex was built for their agents, and many diversions had been included. Wares from all over the known galaxy--and some from worlds unknown to humans--were on display and ranged from wicked looking cutlery to shimmering clothes and exotic foods. Objects D'art lent color to the walls of the buildings, and several beautiful pieces of sculpture graced the tree-enshrouded park in the middle of the mall. A fountain and its accompanying pool sparkled like gems in the park’s center, and artificial sunlight (perfectly suited to the needs of the growing plants) filtered down in a crazy lace pattern of golden motes.
It was here that Lorna paused for a few minutes to rest before going on to explore the section which contained the library, music conservatory, art gallery, and museum.
She stood looking up at a huge piece of delicate sculpture, lost in admiration and wonder. Suddenly, she realized that someone was standing beside her and turned.
A lean, austere-looking man towered over her. His expression of serene confidence and inner peace suggested he might be one of the Superiors.
"Lorna, wife of Sarek of Vulcan," he said quietly.
"Yes." She lifted her hand in the Vulcan salute. "Peace and long life, sir."
"Live long and prosper," he responded. "I am Khepera."
"Gary Seven's teacher and guide? You honor me with your presence."
"Walk with me," Khepera indicated the pleasant park-like area lying beyond the sculpture that led to the surface.
To Lorna's surprise, he spent several minutes with her, talking about various subjects as though he wished to become better acquainted. She'd felt an initial awkwardness in the presence of this being that she knew to be so highly evolved, but soon she conducted herself with the social grace that had been so difficult to learn.
"This has been an enjoyable interlude," he said finally. "But now it must end. We will meet again. Pleasant thoughts, and Peace."
The next moment, as though Khepera had decided it was time for her to see him as he really was, the human form wavered, vanished, and became a whirling cloud of vibrant hues that compressed into a glowing globe of pure energy--but one that wasn't so bright it blinded her. Chiming with a melody sweeter than the songs of Vulcan's silver birds, the globe drifted upwards and vanished into the sky.
"G-good Heavens!" Lorna gasped, still looking upward. "A-are these Superiors what we called angels?"
"No, they are not!" a cold, masculine voice said sharply. "What an archaic idea!"
Lorna turned quickly. A tall, blond youth, wearing clothing of the Terran style, stood beside her, glaring at her with disapproval.
"I beg your pardon?" she said quietly.
"You should," he snapped. "'Angels' indeed! Who needs angels with them around?"
"I would imagine that even the Superiors would welcome the help of an angel once in a while," Lorna retorted, moving a step or two away. "I do not believe we've met."
"No, we haven't. I'm Frederick Jerome Lynch, of Earth. Who are you?"
Lorna looked at him steadily for a moment, then she lifted her head proudly and announced her full title, speaking in fluent High-Vulcan accents.
"Mind running that by me again--in English this time?"
Lorna gritted her teeth but replied politely, "I merely told you that I am the wife of Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan--."
"Oh, yes, I've heard about you!" He laughed deprecatingly. "I was afraid they'd bring you here one of these days. Well, don't try any of your troublemaking tactics. They're one step ahead of you all the way."
"'Troublemaking tactics'?" Lorna echoed in bewilderment. "May I ask what you are talking about?"
"Don't give me that!" Lynch sneered. "I've been studying the records. . .I know you're the one who keeps trying to convert your husband and your stepson!"
"Please clarify that statement." Lorna's eyes gleamed with anger, and she felt herself flushing, but she clenched her fists in an effort to keep herself under strict control.
"You talk about your religious beliefs interminably. You have completely ignored the fact that your husband and your stepson have their own way of looking at things. You've been trying to force your religion on them. . . . Don't look at me with those innocent eyes and say you haven't! You were a preacher's daughter--you'll always be one of those 'goody-goodies,' too busy running around trying to 'save' everybody to enjoy life. What are you going to do--keep preaching at Sarek and Spock until you get them to agree to be baptized, just to get you off their backs?"
Lorna was dumbfounded by this unprovoked attack, but she knew she couldn't let it go unchallenged. "You are making judgments without facts--" she started to say but he interrupted her.
"I don't need facts. I know how you religious fanatics operate. You don't give an inch but think everybody has to believe the same way you do. To make it worse, you act like you think you're something really special--that you ought to be carried around on a cushion like a pillow-pretty kitten--expecting everybody to kowtow to you. . . . Why, according to Gary Seven's records, you even tried to convert a Klingon--telling Kang about Christmas! Somebody ought to tie a gag on you until you learn to keep your big mouth shut. . . !"
On and on he went, practically foaming at the mouth, and Lorna was so shocked, so astounded, that she just stood there--and let it happen.
Vulcan has spoiled me, she thought, seeking calm from the storm of emotions. This could not happen there. Vulcans might disagree, but their argument would be calm and logically presented--an honest attempt to express a different view of the facts.
"I do not know why you have developed and expressed such hostility toward me," she said softly when he ran out of breath. Only the glitter of her eyes betrayed her inner turmoil. "But I do not have to endure this. Nor will I dignify your comments with an argument--except to inform you that your accusations are unkind, unjust, and untrue. If you doubt my word, I invite you to come to our quarters tonight and talk to my husband. He'll tell you if I've been trying to 'convert' him and Spock or not."
"You've probably got him so brainwashed by now that he'll lie for you!"
"A Vulcan lie?" Lorna didn't hide her anger and contempt. "Don't be ridiculous! I regret you considered this emotional display necessary. I bear no ill will toward you, but I hope you will see fit to refrain from repeating this action in the future."
"Running away?" he scoffed when she turned to leave. "Are you afraid to listen to the truth?"
"Never," she stated flatly as she turned back and gave him one level, measuring look. "But I haven't heard it these past few minutes. I suggest that you speak with my husband before you make any more assumptions."
She walked away, hardly able to see where she was going--hurt, humiliated, and angry.
Several individuals had heard the tirade, and a few had muttered warnings to the young man. When Lorna made her answer and turned away, they allowed her to leave in peace. Even one word would be a mistake at this moment.
There was no condemnation nor accusation in the eyes that met hers, merely surprise, shock, and even pity for the youth. Lorna kept her head high and her features rigidly calm, but the tension of her shoulders warned onlookers to keep away.
At last, Lorna entered their living quarters, wishing that there was some way she could slam the door behind her. She clenched her fists again, gritted her teeth, and shook her head to drive away the agony of this contamination. "Why?" she whispered brokenly. "What made him do that?"
Wanting the cleansing relief of the shower, she started to head for the bathroom, tugging at the neckline fastening of her garment.
The com unit chimed gently. She wanted to ignore it, but she'd been trained too long to respond instantly to calls. She forced her features and her voice into the calmness that Vulcan culture demanded then answered the call. "Yes. . . ?"
"Lorna," the screen cleared to reveal Gary Seven looking out at her.
"Hello, Gary. Can I help you?"
"You've been alone all morning. . . . Roberta and I would like you to come over for lunch. No use rattling around over there all day by yourself."
"That's very kind of you, Gary. Please thank Roberta for me, but I'm not hungry, I -- I'd rather spend the time in the garden behind our quarters--I want to sit and think," Lorna evaded truthfully.
"Okay," he said lightly, but he was studying her intently while he spoke. "Talk to you later."
The screen blanked out, and Lorna sighed with mingled relief and regret. She knew she wouldn't be good company today. At times like this, she'd learned it was best to go to Sarek and talk it out or, if he wasn't available, to meditate alone until she could resolve the matter herself.
Spending time in the garden sounded more appealing than taking another shower. She went outdoors, but she didn't sit down. Instead, she walked slowly up and down a pathway, mentally replaying the things that Lynch had said to her. True, she had made no secret of her beliefs, but she had not tried to convert her husband and her stepson. She shared the theory expounded by the English Theologian, Author C. S. Lewis--that perhaps everything that was done for good was accepted as having been done for the One Who counted, no matter what Name was given.
She'd practiced the principle of Idic in this area of thought, just as she'd sought to practice it in all others. Whatever reasons Lynch had had for making such sarcastic remarks, she could not accept all of them as valid criticism.
He's right, though, I should learn to keep a tight rein on my tongue at all times--especially when I'm tempted to speak freely about the faith that I cherish, she advised herself as she sat down on a comfortable bench.
//If you do that, Lorna, you will be suppressing one of the most vital parts of your nature--the joy that radiates from you, even when you remain silent.// Sarek scolded her mentally.
//Sarek!// Lorna accepted his mental presence with as much welcome as if he were really there, for this mental touch between husband and wife was no invasion. //Forgive me. I should have blocked my thoughts.//
//You should not. Are you seated? Good. Lean your head back, close your eyes, and share what has happened.//
//Please, Sarek, this is something that I would prefer you not to know about for a little while--not until I've had a chance to regain control of my emotions.//
//Are you in danger, Lorna?//
//What "danger" could threaten me here on Sekhet? No, all that happened was that my self-esteem has been threatened.//
//That is just as serious. . .perhaps more so. We will start back immediately--.//
//No! Sarek, please! I - I met a Terran who said some things that upset me. That's all!//
//Human emotionalism again? I sense that you would be disturbed even more if I did come back now. Correct?//
//Yes, Sarek. I'll tell you about it when you return--after you've completed the hunt.//
Several more exchanges of concern and assurance were necessary, however, before Sarek was convinced that she really would be all right if he did not return at once.
Lorna remained slumped on the bench, eyes closed, fingers nervously rolling and unrolling a fold of her skirt as she sought to employ a mental technique that would help her to banish the effects of her unpleasant encounter. Not for the first time, she wished that she could turn her empathic ability to absorb and cast away mental burdens onto her own problems.
There was the soft sound of a footstep, then she heard a masculine voice. "Lorna?"
She opened her eyes and sat erect. Gary Seven stood beside the bench, looking down at her with visible concern.
"Gary," she glanced beyond him. "What are you doing here? W-Where are Roberta and Jane?"
"What's wrong, Lorna?" he demanded, ignoring her questions.
"What do you mean?" she evaded.
"I could hear it in your voice while we were talking a few minutes ago. What happened to upset you?" He took a seat on the bench beside her.
"You could hear--! How?" Without being fully aware of what she was doing, Lorna lifted one hand to her throat. "I was keeping my voice as calm as--!" Her fingers encountered the still half-open neckline of her garment, and she fell silent--realizing that she'd betrayed herself on two counts.
"That's one thing that tipped me off," he said quietly as she ran her fingers along the fastening to close it. "That--and the fact that your voice was too calm."
"How very sensitive you must be!" Lorna exclaimed, blushing in confusion and embarrassment. "I thank you for coming, Gary, but there's nothing for you to worry about--."
"I'm not so sure," he interrupted challengingly, deliberately watching as her features assumed an expression of careful control. "That won't do any good, Lorna. I know that you're really 'down.' Something has hit you hard. Want to talk about it?"
"You forget. . . . I am bonded to a Vulcan," Lorna said.
"That's all very well, but Sarek isn't here. Maybe he's able to give you support mentally, but there are times when a physical presence is needed--like now. Can't I help? What else are friends for?" He reached out to clasp her hand where it lay dispiritedly in her lap, then lifted it and held it firmly.
Lorna started to speak, then she bit her lower lip and shook her head, blinking hard to hold back the tears that were threatening to fall. "I'm making too much of it," she said finally.
"Let me be the judge of that," he replied gently. "Lorna, when you needed help on Old Earth, you knew I would give it. I thought we were friends--that you would speak freely to me of anything that was troubling you. . .just as I feel I can come to you--."
"S-speaking freely often generates trouble--." Lorna protested, then she sought to change the subject. "You're such a strong individual--I don't believe that you would let anything bother you!"
"No, I need the help of friends as much as anyone else does," he informed her quietly. Then, to her dismay, he repeated his request. "Won't you please tell me what has happened to upset you?"
Her hand lay unresistingly in his comforting clasp while she told him about meeting Khepera and then, haltingly, described her shattering encounter with Lynch.
Gary sat motionless after she'd stopped speaking, holding her hand so tightly it almost hurt, staring unseeingly straight ahead.
"That was humiliating for you. I'll have to ask you to forgive me," he said finally.
"You?" Lorna turned on the bench so she could look up into his face without straining her neck. "Why? You weren't responsible!"
"In a way I was." Releasing her hand, he stood up and began to pace back and forth along the pathway that led past the bench. After a couple of minutes, he stopped and turned to face her. "I was the one who sent Lynch here."
"Oh. . . ?" Lorna said inquiringly.
"Yes, he's from the 20th Century, too. Some very good work that he'd published on his own in the early Seventies indicated that he might be valuable to the Superiors. I knew he was inclined to give anyone or anything that didn't conform to his own 'standards' a pretty hard time of it, but he wasn't so violent about it on Earth.
"He made it plain from the start how he felt about organized religion--almost any religion," Gary continued, "but he used to present his arguments reasonably. Until he began to employ destructive tactics, what he said was his own business. Now, I realize that he wasn't flexible enough to adjust. He had no right to lash out at you--at anyone--the way he did today. He compounded the problem by making unfounded accusations. The fact that he did so in public makes his action unforgivable."
"It was his privilege to say what he thought was right!" Lorna started to argue.
"But that wasn't what he was doing." Gary resumed his seat on the bench. "He was being rude and abusive--bolstering his own ego at the expense of someone else's--and not for the first time, either. Don't waste your breath defending him, Lorna. He's hoisted himself on his own petard too often. Sooner or later, Lynch will have to accept the consequences of his own actions--it might as well be now."
Lorna turned again then reached out to lay her right hand against Gary's left shoulder, near his heart. "Not on my account! Please!" she pleaded. "It isn't that important!"
"Taken into consideration for itself alone, it isn't," he agreed as he reached up to put his hand over hers. "But this is only one of several such incidents, Lorna--the worst one yet. They amount to a devastating total. He's proved that he doesn't have the stability to work as an agent. I made an error in judgment when I selected him. . .one that will have to be corrected."
"How? Can you send him back?"
Gary looked down into her anxious eyes then began to stroke the back of her hand with his thumb in a soothing gesture. "At the time he was living in, Lorna, Earth already had all the problems she could handle. The last thing she'd need would be for him to go back, so he'll have to stay here on Sekhet."
"Doing what?" she demanded when he didn't continue. "What will happen to him? Please, Gary, I must know!"
"I won't make the final decision, of course, but I will testify to all I've seen, heard, and been told. So will everyone else. I'm confident that the Superiors will confirm that Lynch must never be granted agent status. He does have useful talents, though, so--he'll still have a place here after he gets the help that he needs. There are still tasks that have to be done by hand: analyzing reports, making recommendations for observations. . . .He'll have plenty to do to keep him busy, but he'll never be trusted to work on any other planet."
"We used to call work like that 'coolie labor'," Lorna said slowly, almost feeling sorry for Lynch.
Gary released her hand as he turned to face her squarely. Capturing her hand again, he propped his arm up across the back of the bench and leaned his forearm against her shoulder, continuing to move his thumb across the back of her hand in time to the cadence of his voice. "I haven't heard that term for a long time, Lorna. No, I assure you, this will be a little above that level."
"Don't you think that solution is rather drastic?" Lorna demanded. She started to free her hand then paused, tilting her head slightly as if she were listening to something just a little beyond her hearing range. After a moment, she relaxed and allowed her hand to remain quietly in his clasp.
"Not as drastic as making a mindless, non-functioning creature of him would be," Gary said bluntly. "That's what it would take to make sure he wouldn't be able to reveal anything he's learned on Sekhet. It's better to let him stay here, where we can keep an eye on him and keep him out of trouble, rather than destroy him."
"I suppose you're right. . . I hope you won't mind if I express a little sympathy for him?"
They sat in silence for a few moments, listening to the soft murmuring of the breeze as it moved through the trees behind them, then Gary sat erect, released her hand again, and cast a sidelong glance at her. "Feel better now?"
"Much. You were right--it does help to talk problems out. Thanks, Gary." Lorna smiled and started to stand up.
"Do you think this experience will help you to get over being afraid of me?" he asked quietly.
When she turned, the eyes that met her startled gaze were as sharp as a hawk's.
"'Afraid'?" she repeated. "W-what an odd thing to say!"
"Perhaps 'afraid' is the wrong word. I think 'self-conscious' would be more accurate," he said without moving from the bench. "You stiffen up and try to guard whatever you say when you're talking to me. Yet, you never seem to worry about saying the wrong thing when you're talking to Sarek or to Kang."
"I'm not sure I can explain it, Gary," Lorna said as she sat down beside him again. "It isn't something to be discussed casually, but I suspect you already know that Vulcans communicate in a way that humans can't--couldn't. . . . Thanks to my Bonding with Sarek--after so many years together, there's very little that I cannot or do not share with him. As for Kang. . . . Well, he's my -- my 'Klingon knight in shining armor.' I can't forget how he guarded me and helped me while we were searching for the Romulans on Old Earth--. But you helped me, too!" She paused when she saw the exasperation in his eyes. "Oh, Gary, I'm sorry! I'm chattering when you must have millions of things to do! What I've feared most has come to pass--instead of making a good impression, I've offended you instead!"
"You puzzle me more than anything else, Lorna," he contributed when her voice broke suspiciously. "Why does a woman of your age and assumed maturity still manage to dig verbal pitfalls for herself?" When she didn't reply, he continued. "There have been times after you came to Sekhet when I've sensed that if I'd spoken directly to you, you'd have run like a scared rabbit."
Lorna frowned slightly, not caring for the mental image that his words created. After a moment though, she nodded. "I -- guess you're right," she said reluctantly. "After all, the years spent with Sarek, the many journeys to various planets--meeting so many different races should have taught me much in the way of social graces. But, Gary, one of my greatest problems has been the fact that talented, charismatic people still make me feel very humble and awkward--."
"So I've noticed, "Gary scolded. "Letting your childhood have the upper hand again? You'd better discuss the matter with Sarek--tell him you've let a basic insecurity get the best of you. Oh yes, I not only know about the Vulcan Bonding, I also know that it's possible for a spouse to block out something they don't want their mate to know about--especially if the other isn't the type to pry."
He reached out and cupped her chin with one hand, lifting her head so he could see her face. "Lorna," he said sternly, "I'll tell Sarek if you don't." He let her go, then he folded his arms and leaned against the back of the bench. "After all, I owe you a favor. Thanks to you, we have Kang working for us."
"I can't take credit for that. Thank the Romulans--."
"No," he retorted, smiling at a secret memory. "I'm referring to something else. I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time while you were on Old Earth with us."
Lorna waited silently for an explanation.
"I'd been checking another lead on the Romulans. When I returned, you were sitting at my desk, painting a sign," he told her. "You were concentrating so hard on your task, you must not have heard the transporter. I started to come out of the vault and say something to you, then I saw Kang entering the office. It was too good a chance to miss, so I remained quiet and deliberately listened to your conversation."
"I. . .see," Lorna said as she allowed her memory to turn back to that evening--recalling those brief moments when she and Kang had experienced and had conquered a fleeting temptation--unaware that someone had been watching and listening. (("While We're Apart", SHOWCASE II, February 1975.))
When she looked up at Gary, her eyes were clear and unwavering. "I certainly hope you don't expect an apology or an explanation; there's nothing to apologize for or to explain."
"That's right," Gary agreed. "But that bit of eavesdropping convinced me that Kang should be given a chance to consider joining ranks with the Superiors. You must have been quite an influence on Kang, Lorna. You must have taught him to change his outlook on a lot of things. Otherwise, he wouldn't have turned away from you that evening."
"I don't agree," she replied, recalling some of the things she'd glimpsed in Kang's thoughts when they'd engaged in the mental communication after returning to their own time. "Kang really loves Mara, and he wouldn't be content with anyone else. Besides, he always has seemed to be more reasonable than what I'd supposed Klingons to be--."
"Ahuh, you've said that before." Gary shifted on the bench, moved an inch or so closer. "You were wrong about Klingons. Now, give me a chance to convince you that you've been wrong about me."
He was poised to grasp her wrist if she tried to get up from the bench, but she didn't even move.
"How so?" she demanded softly.
"For one thing, I think you've allowed yourself to think of me as some sort of--messiah. You think of me as someone above the need for any relationships other than those I've established with my immediate family. You've already admitted today that you didn't realize I needed friends." When she started to make an instinctive protest, he lifted one hand in a wordless demand for silence. "I might as well go ahead and mention a few more things while I'm being so frank with you. . . . You've given me the impression that you've been feeling somewhat inferior since coming to Sekhet--especially when Sarek, Mara, and I get involved in some of our scientific projects--and I want you to stop it. You aren't doing yourself any favors by encouraging such self-defeating ideas. You'll only create a state of depression if you keep it up. Listen. . . . Maybe you, Roberta, and Kang don't have the intent devotion to science and logic that the rest of us have, but the three of you certainly outclass us when it comes to the science of understanding people! You've been forgetting that the principle of Idic applies to me as much as it does to everyone else. I don't like to see you being so unfair to yourself--and I certainly don't enjoy it when you start being unfair to me!"
"I -- I'm sorry!" she stammered as she bowed her head, hurt by his criticism, but unable to deny the truth of it.
"Don't make such a big deal of it," he reached out to briefly touch the tip of her nose with his index finger. "Just remember that I'm human, through and through; that I make mistakes, and that I need friends, too. Now, what are you going to do about it?"
"Ask - ask you to forgive me, and try to mend my ways," she said with a slight catch in her voice. When he didn't answer, she looked up at him slowly, shoulders tense, expecting to hear a scathing rebuke.
But, though his voice had been stern, he was smiling. She sighed with relief. "I -- I feel like such a fool, Gary!" she stammered. "I guess I'm so close to the problem of myself that I don't realize what I'm doing sometimes until someone takes the time and the trouble to point it out to me. Are you sure you're not an empath in disguise?"
"I'm not, but I've had to learn to read people."
"You're good at it--almost too good! You complimented Kang, Roberta, and me for our skill in understanding others, but you're certainly not lacking that talent yourself." She hesitated for a moment, wondering if she should continue, then smiled and decided this might be one of the few times when she could speak impulsively without regretting it later. "Gary, I think maybe you could help me to unlearn some of the bad habits I've accumulated during the years. Next time I start acting like a 'scared rabbit,' yell at me, will you?"
"Sure, if I have to," he said quietly. "But you know there's a better way."
Lorna became very still--inwardly and outwardly.
Gary had stretched his arm along the bench behind her while he'd been talking, but he wasn't touching her. Instead, he sat motionless, quietly watching her reaction, giving her time to absorb the impact of his words before continuing: "When Khepera first discussed the desirability of the seven of us working together, he stressed the value of your empathic ability. Telepathic communication without actual physical touch is rare. Your ability to engage in an empathic lock that enables you to communicate mentally over great distances is even more so. Your exposure to the Barrier--."
"You've studied the records from the Enterprise! How--?" Lorna started to stand up, thoroughly startled, but Gary's hand clamped down on her shoulder to keep her seated.
"Don't you mean 'who'?" he countered. "That information must remain confidential for now. Let's get back to the subject at hand, Lorna. Khepera has recommended that we all engage in this empathic meld. . .and I know you've already completed it with Mara and with Roberta. When are you going to invite me into your circle of 'special' friends?"
"But you are already, Gary!" Lorna protested. "I wish Roberta were here. . .she'd tell you how highly I regard you--."
"She did tell me--when I said that we ought to get right over here because something had happened to upset you," Gary interrupted. "She agreed that you needed to talk to someone, but she said that the someone ought to be me. . .that this might be a good time for me to try to get into the -- the 'select circle.' I agreed, for it seemed you were never going to bring the subject up on your own."
"But you know why I remained silent!" Lorna protested. "Besides, there's never been a suitable time for me to even try to discuss the possibility of a meld with you--let alone enough time to try to initiate it!"
He nodded. "I know. . .but we're not under any pressures now."
Lorna frowned as she shook her head. "Don't misunderstand me, Gary, but I don't think it will work--not today. There are times when I just can't make that part of my brain do what it's supposed to--no matter how hard I try. I'm afraid this will be one of those times. In fact, I'm sure of it. Generally, every time I touch or am touched by someone, I have to create an automatic shield against accidental, mental touch. I didn't have to maintain that shield with you, for you have a very strong barrier against mental invasion already. Is it natural, or is it a result of training?"
"Training," Gary replied. "But you've been taught never to invade someone else's mind. . .isn't it possible that you weren't even trying to establish the lock--without realizing it?"
"Perhaps. Yet, that doesn't explain your failure. You're a 'touching' person, Gary. For you, touch is a means of communication--especially when you're talking to friends. However, you've touched me frequently today because you've been testing that barrier yourself--right?"
"Part of the time. The rest was because you needed the touch of a friend's hand--and don't deny it!"
"I'm not going to. Such touches given by a friend can sometimes mean the difference between sanity and madness. But, Gary--the fact that we've not been able to get past that mental barrier of yours for one second worries me."
"Me, too. Roberta said that you only had to touch her for a moment yesterday to establish the lock with her."
"That's right. Of course, I've been on the defensive--,"
"Yes, and there may be another reason for our difficulty. We're both so aware of the importance of the empathic mind-meld, maybe we're afraid of failing and are resisting subconsciously."
"I think you're right! Too bad; this would have been a perfect day to try the meld!"
"It isn't over yet," he rose then reached down and pulled Lorna to her feet. "I'm tired of that bench. Let's go for a walk and let things happen as they please. . . ."
They followed the smooth path--which was wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side--admiring the flowers that lined the way, comparing them with their favorite plants.
Lorna stopped to examine a section that was filled with fragrant roses. "Here's something Earth offers that no other world had been able to duplicate with much success except. . . ." She made a second quick visual survey. "No, they don't have the Blue Rose. Maybe they'd like a start from mine."
"Odd. They developed a 'Blue Rose' in the 20th Century on Earth. I saw one, but it was pink with a blue tint, not the true color."
"That's not what I'm talking about. You'll have to see the one Sarek brought back from Mauretania for me. (("The Misfit", SHOWCASE I, February 1974.)) It's real--the petals are as dark as fine sapphires."
"Sounds interesting. Maybe we'll be able to visit Vulcan and see it for ourselves someday."
They resumed their walk through the garden. Before long, Gary reached out and casually caught hold of Lorna's hand, retaining possession of it while he asked her about her children and related adventures he and Roberta had had with Jane.
Lorna compared the sense of ease and rightness she was experiencing now with the tension and lack of confidence she'd felt earlier. Why do I so constantly miss the goals that I set for myself so long ago? she thought and sighed deeply. Why is it taking me so long to become the person I want to be?
//You'll just have to try harder, Lorna. But remember. . . we can only strive for perfection in this life. If we could achieve it, we would be angels--!//
As soon as they realized they were communicating mentally, they turned toward each other, their eyes bright with excitement and hope, then Lorna sighed and shook her head. "No. It happened for a moment, but I've lost you. It was like you'd slammed a door in my face."
"It's a start," he said softly. "And I think we may be able to achieve the lock if we try now. Show me what to do."
Lorna had started to suggest that they wait, but didn't. They were feeling the closest harmony that they had ever experienced. If they didn't succeed in completing the lock now, they never would.
Slowly, moving the way one does in a dream, Lorna showed Gary how to place his hands against her head and face in the pattern that best suited the process of the meld for her. She stood with her hands resting against his chest for a moment, gathering her strength, then she reached up and touched his face in the same manner. Closing her eyes, she sought to create the empathic lock.
They began to exchange thoughts, and soon they experienced a giving and receiving of an emotion which is classified as "love" but has nothing carnal about it--that feeling between reasoning beings that is termed agape. Lorna began to understand Gary, as she never would have if she'd had to rely upon verbal communication alone. He began to understand her the same way--and he also began to understand her reasons...to interpret the motives behind her compulsion to help others.
A bond of liking and respect grew between them--an awareness of a harmony of many likes and interests that would help them work well together--but there was still a barrier preventing the empathic communion.
They had reached a point where they'd established enough of a contact to be able to communicate mentally whenever they touched and wished to exchange thoughts. However, if the meld couldn't go any further, they'd be unable to communicate over any distances at all. The best they'd be able to do would be to sense when the other was experiencing great pain or stress.
Lorna was tiring, and Gary could feel it. He tried to reinforce her strength with his own--to let her through the barrier that still existed in his mind.
"I can't do it," she gasped finally and swayed weakly. "That mental barrier of yours is too strong. . . !"
"I was pretty sure it would be," he replied as he put his arms around her in a non-passionate, almost brotherly hug. "My training was quite thorough. We've tried. . .and we've achieved a superficial touch. That'll have to do."
"I'm sorry," she said brokenly as she leaned her forehead against his shoulder, simply too tired to move. "I did my best--."
"And no one can ask any more of you than that." He tightened his arms about her for a moment longer, then he took hold of her upper arms and held her away so he could look down into her face. "I simply don't have the control to lower that barrier," he said, emphasizing the fact that the fault, if any, was his. "Khepera must have suspected something like this could happen, else he wouldn't have made such detailed plans for our disguises as traders. We'll still be able to work as a team--we'll just have to depend more upon verbal communication than we'd planned." Sensing that she still needed support, he didn't let go of her arms as he continued. "Perhaps it's just as well. Mental communication might have failed us when we needed it most."
Lorna didn't reply. Gary's statement was one of a very good probability and didn't need to be agreed with verbally. She just stood quietly, amply content with the beautiful communion they were experiencing.
Then, as the strength which had been drained from her by the intense mental effort of trying to establish the link returned, she straightened and squared her shoulders.
"Are you all right now?" Gary asked. When she nodded, his arms slipped from her to his sides as he said, "Lorna, if I can help you in any way, don't ever hesitate to ask."
"I won't--if you will also do the same."
"That, Lorna, is a promise!"
The two exchanged smiles and continued their stroll; there in the garden Kang and Sarek found them when they returned from their hunt.
Kang and Gary didn't linger; when they were alone, Sarek observed, "You are much calmer, Lorna. Did Gary Seven have anything to do with this?"
"Yes," Lorna replied, joining her fingers with his. She told Sarek of her day--of its disappointments as well as of its pleasures--and of her futile attempts to establish a link with Gary Seven.
"It is unfortunate that the link could not be forged," Sarek commented.
"True. But, Sarek. . .Gary and I forged a different sort of link between us--one that I consider even more valuable. We're much closer now--more than friends. He's like the elder brother I never had, and I rejoice in the relationship we now have."
"As do I," Sarek responded. "You have a need for human friends, Lorna. I am pleased that Gary Seven was with you to help you today--I think he understood the situation better than I would have."
"I don't know about that--but he helped me ease my mind concerning a lot of things that have been bothering me. Now that we have things settled between us, I am confident that we shall all form a strong, formidable, effective team."
"I know we shall, wife."
"How was the hunt?" Lorna asked, changing the subject.
"Quite satisfactory. I must admit the Tefal of Sekhet makes an extremely challenging quarry. But I was not reluctant to return. This day spent hunting with a Klingon has been an interesting experience. Tomorrow, however, we return to the rigors of training."
"'Rigors'?" Lorna snorted. "That isn't the only description! Some of this training is downright boring."
Lorna sighed. "At least, this afternoon in the garden has fortified my soul. I feel more equal to facing the tasks and trials of training that lie ahead of us. It's been sort of a reaffirmation. But. . . . My husband, will you join me for a time?"
Since they were completely alone, Sarek smiled and slipped an arm around Lorna's waist. "It would please me, Lorna. I, too, need the quiet and reaffirming. And. . . . Time with you is always well spent."
Lorna returned the smile and snuggled close to him. They walked along the garden path, then they parted a screen of leaves clustered between two closely growing trees and disappeared behind them.
The leaves snapped back into place, totally concealing the couple and leaving the garden empty of all but the tangible presence of peace and contentment, which no one could disturb.
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